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 'The ability of government, consonant with the  Constitution, to shut off discourse solely to protect others from hearing it is… dependent upon a showing that substantial privacy interests are being invaded in an essentially intolerable manner. Any broader view of this authority would effectively empower a majority to silence dissidents simply as a matter of personal predilections.' Cohen v. California, 403 U.S., at 21.


The plain, if at times disquieting, truth is that in our pluralistic society, constantly proliferating new and ingenious forms of expression, 'we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes.' Much that we encounter offends our esthetic, if not our political and moral, sensibilities. Nevertheless, the Constitution does not permit government to decide which types of otherwise protected speech are sufficiently offensive to require protection for the unwilling listener or viewer. Rather, absent the narrow circumstances described above, the burden normally falls upon the viewer to 'avoid further bombardment of [his] sensibilities simply by averting [his] eyes.' Cohen v. California, supra, at 21. See also Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 412 (1974).


It has also been suggested that government may proscribe, by a properly framed law, 'the willful use ...

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